, ‘Starstruck’ is a sweet, funny rom-com that leans into the mess of something new, The Nzuchi News Forbes

‘Starstruck’ is a sweet, funny rom-com that leans into the mess of something new

Things tend to go a little wrong at the start of something big — and rom-com creators know it. 

Created by and starring New Zealand comedian Rose Matafeo, Starstruck is a delightful and truly funny ode to the messiness of liking someone new — the chance encounters, the nervous awkwardness, the small misunderstandings that get blown out of proportion, and the inability to know where each other stands.

Oh yeah, and one of you is a movie star. 

Set across an easily bingeable six 22-minute episodes, Starstruck is a light, fun, millennial rom-com that revolves around Jessie (Matafeo), a twenty-something from New Zealand working two jobs in London. After a one night stand on New Year’s Eve, Jessie realises after a cheeky Google search she’s just slept with a famous movie star, Tom Kapoor (Nikesh Patel). But it doesn’t end there, of course. 

First, let’s get one thing out of the way. Watching Starstruck without thinking about Notting Hill is near impossible — a charming non-famous person meets a very famous and equally charming movie star without recognising them. Romance ensues. Paparazzi circle. Friends lose their shit. There’s undeniable overlap with Richard Curtis’ iconic rom-com — scenes in which Jessie begs her friends to be cool around Tom at several dinner parties are reminiscent of the “who deserves the last brownie” dinner party scene, for instance. But that’s where the similarities end. 

Directed by Karen Maine and written by Matafeo with fellow comedian Alice Snedden, Starstruck weaves its very own sweet tale of love in the city of London. Starstruck doesn’t reinvent the rom-com, and with six 20-minute episodes this could very well have been a film. But Matafeo, Snedden, and Maine make it their own, infusing the series with a playful brand of comedy that makes it more of a sweet companion to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s gleefully naughty Fleabag or Billie Piper and Lucy Prebble’s darker, fame-fuelled I Hate Suzie.

, ‘Starstruck’ is a sweet, funny rom-com that leans into the mess of something new, The Nzuchi News Forbes

I heart Jessie (Rose Matafeo) and Tom (Nikesh Patel).

Image: BBC / Avalon UK / Mark Johnson

Putting in a solid bid for your new favourite rom-com pair, the onscreen chemistry between Matafeo and Patel is an absolute treat to watch as Jessie and Tom. Both natural comedy actors, the pair deliver the script’s playful, flirty banter with effortless authenticity. Jessie is a strong, smart, nuanced protagonist, who — channelling Matafeo’s award-winning standup — expertly uses humour to pick apart and commentate on uncomfortable circumstances. You’ll cheer her on, lament some of her life choices, and perhaps recognise yourself in her character — there’s a monologue Jessie delivers in episode 5 that, as an Antipodean living in London, I found uncomfortable truth in. Plus, she gets her own slow-motion music video scene worthy of Broad City, a perfect moment involving parkour, Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack,” and a busy London canal.  

, ‘Starstruck’ is a sweet, funny rom-com that leans into the mess of something new, The Nzuchi News Forbes

But this ain’t a one-person show. Bringing a delightfully gentle awkwardness and deadpan hilarity to Tom as a star trying to figure his shit out, Patel plays the quintessential romantic lead with ease. It’s not his first rom-com rodeo, having already appeared in Mindy Kaling’s redo of Richard Curtis’ Four Weddings and a Funeral. Tom patiently accommodates unsubtle fan-outs (mainly from Jessie’s friends), while trying valiantly to figure out his feelings for Jessie amid the weird world of fame.

, ‘Starstruck’ is a sweet, funny rom-com that leans into the mess of something new, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Kate (Emma Sidi ) is the best and least subtle roommate.

Image: BBC/Avalon UK/Mark Johnson

Like all good rom-coms, the supporting cast proves crucial in Starstruck, with standout performances from Stath Lets Flats star Emma Sidi as Jessie’s severely earnest roommate, Kate, and standup comedian Sindhu Vee as Jessie’s hilariously deadpan boss, Sindhu. Plus, the whole thing is set to a comforting jazzy score by Skins and We Are Your Friends composer Segal. 

Put simply, Starstruck is just a really enjoyable, funny, romantic series with a wonderful cast that you’ll smash through in a night and probably recommend to friends. The show’s ability to capture the messy journey that is falling for someone, navigating the early weirdness to get to the good bit, is a sweet treat to watch, and throwing in a subtle skewering of fame and celebrity does wonders. 

For Starstruck, you could fall hard, and with Season 2 on the way, this could be something special.

Starstruck is streaming on BBC iPlayer in the UK and HBO Max in the U.S. It’s coming to ABC iView in Australia from June 23.

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